A Carnivore’s Dream — Best Cured Meats in Toronto
Speducci Mercatto serves up the best in cured, dry-aged, fresh and prepared meats in the city, thanks to the traditional (and tasty) Italian methods to which Chef Gabriele Paganelli remains loyal.
When it first opened its doors in 2014, owners Gabriele Paganelli and Rosie Scavuzzo couldn’t have anticipated the success of the then little-known Speducci Mercatto. Nestled in an industrial nook of a bustling city, the warm and welcoming butcher-slash-market-slash-café grew and grew to become just what Torontonians had been looking for — a place to gather for good Italian food and quality products.
Its mainstay is an award-winning selection of Paganelli-branded cured meats: mouth-watering prosciutto, pancetta and salami. Once you set foot in the door, the aroma, reminiscent of an Italian salumeria, paired with the beautiful visual of the cured meats hanging everywhere is enough to overload the senses and transport you back to Sunday lunches at nonna’s.
The Ravenna-born chef (from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy) grew up on the food he prepares and serves today. While working for the family business as a boy, he fostered an appreciation for the freshness of homemade goodness.
Paganelli’s philosophy is simple: “I want to reproduce what we don’t have here in Canada, all the beautiful flavours.”
As a duo, Paganelli and Scavuzzo proved to be the A-team — Paganelli has years of culinary experience, while business-savvy Scavuzzo has successfully opened and managed several eateries across the city over the years, including the Real Sports Bar and Grill with MLSE. Speducci Mercatto was destined to be a local gem. With an emphasis on using only the finest-quality, locally sourced cuts of meat (some of which are from the chef’s personal farm) alongside fresh produce and using traditional cooking and curing processes, Speducci Mercatto hit an epicurean gold mine, slowly expanding their offerings to include more of what their customers were seeking.
“If you’re true to your brand and stick to something great, people will come,” says Scavuzzo.
Thinking back to the wild boar strozzapreti that she had me try just before our interview began, I have to agree: it’s a Chef Paganelli specialty. “Gabe’s food is extraordinary,” says Scavuzzo. “We don’t cook with a lot of seasoning or spice; we just use really good food, and it comes out in every single dish.”
“We offer high-end and that’s what we’re sticking to — nothing less, it’s just not part of our business model.” — Rosie Scavuzzo
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more wholesome dish in the city at lunchtime. The boar meat, juicy and packed with a punch of natural flavours, sits on a bed of freshly made pasta and is complemented by a tomato sauce that nonna would not only approve of, but surely serve in her own kitchen. Other popular dishes include the award-winning truffle pheasant risotto and, of course, the speducci. Paganelli treats his constantly evolving menu with pride, mixing old-world traditions with modern techniques.
“We use the best ingredients on the market,” says Paganelli. “If you use the best then it’s easy to reproduce something good.”
Whether you’re dining in, taking out or picking up an assortment of cured charcuterie and delicious imports, Speducci Mercatto is a hot spot for quality products and superior customer service. After hours, the café is also available for private functions, a popular venue for parties, milestone celebrations and business dinners.
“People come here for the quality and uniqueness of our products,” says Scavuzzo. “We offer high-end and that’s what we’re sticking to — nothing less, it’s just not part of our business model.” Everything, down to the grains of salt used in the special curing process, is top-quality. It’s an art form, really. Paganelli uses a special sweet sea salt from the Adriatic Sea. Not to mention that everything from the traditional sugo (tomato sauce) to the pizza dough and pasta is made fresh in-house almost daily to keep up with demand.
“We owe a lot of our success to every single customer that comes through that door,” says Scavuzzo. “They’ve been our biggest advocates since day one.”
On the horizon are two exciting extensions of Speducci Mercatto: a food truck expected to roll out in time for summer 2018 and an expansive 6,000-sq.-ft. event space for up to 300 people to cater to the growing demand in the community.
photos by carlos a. pinto